Major League Baseball’s off season has heated up this week during the winter meetings in Nashville. There have been multiple signings and a couple big trades with money changing hands like it’s a game of Monopoly. Despite all the moves and noise being made, it’s been nothing but crickets coming from the Kansas City Royals.
For the first time in a generation the Royals enter the off season as the World Champions. There is no discussion of how to build a winner or what one or two players do they need to get over the hump. The Royals won the World Series, and this off season seems to be all about celebrating the win and just hanging on to that moment as long as we can.
That time of celebrating appears to be coming to an end however as the harsh reality of a new season has begun to creep in thanks to off season moves. The first big loss came last night when Ben Zobrist signed a 4 year $56 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. In his short time with the Royals, Zobrist had become a fan favorite. He was a great player that was a major reason the Royals were able to win the WS and he seemed to genuinely enjoy Kansas City. Even his wife became a fan favorite for not having their baby until after the WS and then giving the baby girl the middle name of Royal. So there was hope that a love of the city would outweigh the pull of a big contract.
That hope was shattered when the Cubs were willing to give the 34 year old Zobrist a four year deal. I believe the Royals would have been happy to pay the $14 million price tag per year, but I think they only wanted to be locked into that for two years. They can’t risk paying an old declining player $14 million after two years when they are trying to resign young stars like Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
Unfortunately for Royals fans, the heartbreak will not stop with Zobrist departure. Royals fans cover your eyes for this part, but Gordon is not resigning with Kansas City. Alex Gordon will be 32 years old in February and is expected to sign a five or six year deal for around $100 million or more. Not only can the Royals not afford a deal like that, I don’t believe they should do it even if they could. While I am a Gordon fan as much as the next guy, he’s really not worth that much to a team like the Royals. Gordon is the one of the best defensive left fielders in baseball and is good (not great) at the plate. The problem for the Royals is that he is good enough to carry the team. Gordon is a great complimentary player, when you have a top to bottom lineup the way the Royals had this year, he’s a beast at the backend. But if you pay Gordon that much money than more than likely you will be losing two or three of those young stars and it would then be up to Gordon to lead the team in the middle of the lineup. A career .270 hitter who averages 19 homeruns a season just isn’t going to be able to put up the kind of numbers on his own that it would take to sustain the loss of that young talent. This would be especially true for the last two or three years of his deal when his age will cause his production to drop.
If the Royals would like to increase their payroll to $200 million a year, then by all means let’s throw money at Gordon like crazy and then get to work signing Hosmer, Cain and Moustakas to long term deals. I don’t see the payroll going that way thought, which means while it will hurt and not be fun to see our favorites leave, we as fans need to understand that it is what is best for the team. So far in the 2016 MLB offseason the Royals have stuck to their plan that got them into back-to-back World Series. They have let the high priced older free agents walk. It was Billy Butler in 2015 and this year it was Zobrist and will be Gordon. But they have resigned veteran pitcher Chris Young who was a key to the rotation and bullpen last season. They have brought back former closer Joakim Soria to build up a bullpen after Ryan Madson signed with the Dodgers and Greg Holland will miss the entire season due to Tommy John surgery.
The rumor mill is still swirling around with news that the Royals are interested in acquiring a corner outfielder as well as a starting pitcher. Will these be big time names like Johnny Cueto or BJ Upton? No, they probably won’t be. As Royals fans that’ve seen what the Royals have done over the last couple years should that matter to us, no it shouldn’t! The Royals will likely never win the off season the way the White Sox did in 2015 or the Dodgers did in 2014. While that looks flashy and always seems like a great way to go and excites fans, it’s not the Royal way. The Royal way took a long time to work and many of us (myself included) were ready for a new way in 2014. I was wrong. The Royal way clearly works and we as Royals fans need to embrace that fact and think accordingly. They don’t give rings, have parades or raise banners for winning the off season. So while a team like the Cubs or Dodgers will get all the praise going into the 2016 season and fans will be talking smack about the Royals minor moves, I’ll just simply point to the new banner flying and simply say……scoreboard!